Let it go.
Many a time have these been said to me, either by someone I know or by myself, to myself.
In our present context, these cliches have become the equivalent of a super-sized dose of antidepressants. Take two and everything will be fine, we say.
Popular culture considers these the panacea to pretty much all our interpersonal ills. You got mercilessly bullied as a child because you were branded as weird or different?
Move on. Let it go.
You grew up in abusive household or were bounced around the foster care system because your parents couldn’t behave like adults?
Move on. Let it go.
You were married to someone who later turned into the exact opposite of the person you initially fell in love with and the destruction of that relationship absolutely crushed you?
Move on. Let it go.
I freely concede that there are times where it is not only important to sever any and all connections to past trauma or toxic relationships, it is absolutely vital to a person’s long-term survival.
In the course of my lifetime, I’ve found myself having to do that on a number of occasions with both a lot of experiences and people, including some whom I would’ve never thought I’d have to do that to, if I’m honest.
I haven’t had any contact with my mother in nearly two years now. I have no photos of her in my possession. There are no reminders of her anywhere to be found in my life.
The same goes for both my father, my brother and my ex-wife, though I still speak to my dad on occasion. I haven’t seen my brother or said a word to him in close to three years and I doubt I will likely do so again.
The only reason I keep in contact with my ex-wife is because of our son, though when he reaches adulthood, that will stop as well.
I barely converse with people I grew up or went to high school with. The list of people I went to college and keep in contact with is getting smaller by the year, though it was arguably never really big to begin with.
I don’t keep up with old co-workers for the most part. I don’t get back to the old neighborhoods.
A major part of my routine involves doing precisely what those phrases dictate.
Move on. Let it go.
To do that, I spend my time at work or otherwise keeping myself occupied to the point where I don’t have time to think about those things. Sometimes it involves doing something truly mind-numbing like playing a video game or watching a movie for the 896th time.
Some days it helps. Others not so much. But that’s been my routine for the better part of the past 25 years or so.
Try not to think about it. Try not to remember how you feel about it.
Just Move on. Let it go.
We like to think we’re doing our friends a favor by repeating this rhetoric whenever something bad happens either for the first time or as the continuation of an already painful event. We tend to tell ourselves they can be rather simple actions.
After all, it’s just five words consisting of thirteen letters. How hard can it really be?
Sometimes, it’s harder than you can possibly imagine.
The acts of letting go and moving on, often come with a fair amount of compartmentalization. We slice them up into rational, semi-rational or wholly irrational slices, put them away in little boxes and generally don’t deal with them.
And sometimes the acts themselves are traumatic because doing so creates a separation from not only the unpleasant feelings or memories connected to a person, but they also tend to take the positive feelings and memories, which we are all free to preserve for our own sanity and sense of where we fall on our emotional compass, with them.
Case in point:
I have someone in my life right now who I should’ve let go of and moved on from years ago…and I can’t.
The evidence is there for why I should, just like it was for the other times when I had to with my mother and brother. The relationship feels one-sided both in terms of emotional investment and effort made to sustain it.
In the past few years, the impression I’ve gotten is very much the same as the one I had with my mother at the time I finally found both the strength and the anger to justify moving on from her. That there is a set of unspoken rules which I don’t know about, forming the foundation for how things are both now and moving forward.
Editorial Note: In the interest of fairness, I freely admit that I am simply going by my gut on this and I could be entirely wrong. That said, I’ve also been around the block enough times to be able to put a little trust in my instincts when the evidence favors my doing so.
If that is, in fact, the case then there shouldn’t be any rational reason at all why I don’t do precisely that. Just move on and let it go. I’ve done it before, even with the people who I never thought I would ever have to detach myself from.
So why can’t I do it now?
The reason why I can’t…or at least why the idea absolutely mortifies me…has nothing to do with rationality at all, however.
It’s not about stubbornness or pride or being obsessive or wanting to be vindictive or implementing some measure of patriarchal control or even living in the past. What it boils down to is the simplest, yet most irrational thing which usually prevents people from letting go and moving on from the people they care about most.
The basic hope that someone matters enough not to give up on them, no matter how much you don’t see eye-to-eye on everything.
Every one of us, at some point, clings to the hope that a relationship with someone, be it purely plutonic, intimately personal, or otherwise, is worth holding onto.
That having to let go and move on from them would be a more painful and damaging process in the long-term, than grinding it out in the here and now. To the outsiders, it may seem like a pointless waste of time and borderline masochistic, depending on the circumstances.
Only relationships are one-on-one dynamics and what they see from the outside is not always what you see from the inside.
So despite what my gut and outside sources tell me I should do, I’m not letting go. I’m not moving on.
I’ve tried. Believe me, I’ve tried…and I just can’t, Not this time.
I am clinging to my hope, no matter how fragile it is, and damn the friggin’ consequences, because that is what you do with someone you care about that much, regardless of what they do to you in turn.
You hold on. Right to the bitter end, if necessary, but you hold on.